Overwhelmed by Tokyo choices -- could use some help!
Could use some advice from the experts. Have a trip to Tokyo early Nov for 4 days before heading to Osaka for three days.
I'm a bit lost in terms of how to approach looking for dining in Tokyo as there seems to be just SO MUCH of it.
I'd like to try a bunch of different budgeted places, extending up to about $30/pp for lunch and probably no more than $75/pp for dinner as only one or two of the meals. While I'd love to spend $300 for sushi, I will need to dream for now.
Tonkatsu: Maisen (lunch or dinner? is one better?)
Sushi: one of the Tsukiji Omakase places, would like more recommendations here!
Bakeries/Japanese specialties: ?
Snacks (Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki): ?
Other dinner places??
I know this is vague, but I genuinely love Japanese cuisine and would just like to cover my bases with a bunch of choices.
Staying in Shinjuku area. Don't speak any Japanese.
As your staying near Shinjuku I can recommend the alley known as p**s alley for Yakatori right near Shinjuku station.
When I was there in 2008 there was talk of all the yakatori stalls being moved out so not sure if it is still there.
Not sure if it's the best yakatori in Tokyo but definitley a great experience.
tonkatsu: my personal favourites are katsukura and butagumi. the former is conveniently located in shinjuku takashimaya, and perhaps more suited to your price point.
sushi: hmmm if you stick to tsukiji, you will find the same 3 places being thrown around on this board. and none come highly recommended (long queues, good but not stellar food etc). maybe check out ninisix's posts on sushi-yasan in the ginza area? i had quite a good lunch at sushi taichi (about 4000 yen) following his recommendation.
bakeries: donq. also, le petit mec in marui main building in shinjuku. echire has a shop in marunouchi brick square (if you can take the long queues).
desserts: hidemi sugino if you are a mousse cake fan. a tes souhaits is currently top-ranked on tabelog now. had good desserts at plaisir last may when i was in tokyo.
ramen: current top on tabelog / ramen database is this place called menya ittou. chicken-based ramen stock i believe. fuunji is in shinjuku - closes early around 9pm.
yakitori: you can try your luck at torishiki, but i'd be surprised if you can manage to get a reservation given the short lead time. the chef used to work at toriyoshi, which i've been to (and liked ). if you go to either, try the "chochin", or "lantern".
IN my opinion, just spare during usual lunch and dinner, and sometimes go for a deluxe one in Tokyo and in Kyoto...
For lunch, you have for exemple ramen like Aoshima in Akiharaba (800yens), or soba Narutomi in Ginza (between Tsukiji and Ginza) at 1100yens for 'tenzaru(cold soba) gobo' chip tempura, or tempura Tenmatsu in Mitsukoshi Mae station (2625yens set, and better than Tsunahachi tempura), or sushi Taichi 7mn walk from Tsukiji and really well prepared at 2500yens for lunch on week days.
Gyozas at Kameido location is usually only gyozas, nothing else, so my recommendation is to try for diner the tiny counter TachiKichi in Shibuya, their 'suigyozas' are better and more tasty than the grilled ones. For dinner in Shinjuku, you can also go at Shinjuku Takashimaya restaurant 14 floor, there is a tonkatsu Katsukura, the cheapest menu I won't recommend it, but if you choose the simple sirloin thick cut pork katsu, it is more juicy (around 2500yens for diner).
Sushi Taichi -Ginza
Tempura Tenmatsu -Mitsukoshi-mae
Ramen Aoshima -Akihabara
http://www.aoshima-ramen.co.jp/ (ginger soy tonkotsu base soup
)Gyoza Tachikichi -Shibuya
Soba Narutomi -Ginza
Tonkatsu Katsukura -Shinjuku Takashimaya
Soba Hosokawa is really good, especially, season tempura soba. The chef Hosokawa-san is a trained Kaiseki chef, and learned tempura from Kondo-san himself, so one of his specialities is a whole carrot tempura, or sansai tempura(depending on season). But right now, they dont serve tempura as he is looking for apprentice to help. Last week, i have had two different soba, including 'shin-soba'. Yes, soba is a actually a seasonal product - now is new soba crop, in this case origin was Hokkaido. Hosokawa-san don't buy treated soba seeds, he makes his own soba from the raw non washed products.. so his soba are flavoured, but less mild than the others..
Perhaps 'anago' tempura was a bit a part oily, it depends of the ingredients. I have had already 4-5 meals there and 3 times tempura. Season's tempura was not oily at all, and have had white asparagus tempura..
Before I saw your post, I've started narrowing down my choices (which I'll amend based on your suggestions!)
Sushi Daiwa (Tsukiji)
Uogashi Nihonichi Standing Sushi Bar, Shibuya
Ivan Ramen Plus
Harukiya (Wonton Ramen)
Kitsuneya Gyudon/Motsudon (Tsukiji)
Hokkaido Milk Bread
If you are still looking for an izakaya, Sake no Ana, in Ginza, would suit your budget. Its a cozy place with a very good range of sake (over 100 brands), with friendly staff that can guide you through the selection process. They also have an English menu, though you will have to ask about the daily specials.
On the other side of town, Kotaro (10 minutes walk from Shibuya station) is another good option. Again, they have a good sake selection (albeit more select) and excellent food. The menu is written in highly stylised kanji, but Kotaro-san can speak some basic English, so you should be fine. Reservations are difficult, so I would recommend you get your hotel to make a booking for you a few weeks in advance.